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Botanical Giants #2: Heracleum mantegazzianum - The Giant Hogweed or Giant Cow Parsnip

Updated on January 17, 2014

Welcome to Jurassic Park - Giant HogWeed style

And it gets EVEN BIGGER THAN THIS !!! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the UK it is illegal to cause this weed to grow or encourage it to grow. It is rampant
And it gets EVEN BIGGER THAN THIS !!! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the UK it is illegal to cause this weed to grow or encourage it to grow. It is rampant

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Giant HogWeed, is a clear and -potential- dangerous dominating invader!

There are "Ground-Zero" patches of the weed beginning to manifest in the U.S.

It MUST be eradicated/controlled, (see U.K. videos below)

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You can be FINED for growing these plants by choice

THIS one is small and young

These plants drive EVERY OTHER Plant out, and entirely take over an area, imbalancing local ecology, and spreading rapidly.  ONE PLANT produces as much as 50,000 seeds.  Each seed can -"wait"- in the ground, wait to germinate, for 7 years or more.
These plants drive EVERY OTHER Plant out, and entirely take over an area, imbalancing local ecology, and spreading rapidly. ONE PLANT produces as much as 50,000 seeds. Each seed can -"wait"- in the ground, wait to germinate, for 7 years or more.

The Giant Hogweed is a Giant Perennial Pain in The ...dermis

The Giant Hogweed, I'm sorry... it is an absolutely spectacular weed. The thing is gargantuan. It is a stunning weed of absolutely tremendous proportion. It is considered to be an "Herb"... but it will grow to the size of a TREE! (see below the picture of a simply massive stem in a technicians hands!) It is a giant weed. And it will hurt you - if it can. I don't mean like a small toxic, thing that sneaks up on you. This thing is a MONSTER, it flexes muscles as you walk by it, it shows off. It's so confident it just stands there, nearly twenty feet tall and DARES you to TRY to remove it.

And even IF it looks like you rip it out. It's got roots... you probably missed some. This weed will grow back.

In the U.K. this weed is so entirely "beloved" [- sarcasm -], that if you "...plant, or cause the giant hogweed to grow in the wild" it is considered a illegal-offense, punishable by LAW, in accordance with the UK, Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. The Giant Hogweed is "Loved".... THAT much.

Seriously, in the U.K. it is out of control, and a serious threat. See the videos below. There are some areas in those videos where you will see the weed is entirely in the process of taking over whole fields and riverbanks. It will take over large parcels of land very rapidly. One Year is all it needs. And you cannot walk where this plant grows in abundance, not without requiring HOSPITALIZATION.

ONE Giant Hog Weed plant, can produce fifty thousand seeds. Each seed remains viable for 7 years or more, sitting in the ground, waiting to germinate.

And if you touch it with bare hands, you will be very very sorry. God HELP you if you accidentally run into a patch of it. Or accidentally run into merely a single medium-sized shrub of it. Seriously, if you were just running or trotting (for some reason- as when children are playing... ) and stumbled into this plant, most likely you COULD indeed wind up in the hospital. Especially if you have some allergic sensitivity condition to start with. And if you get the sap in your eyes to boot, by accidentally swishing your face through it's serrated leaves.

You'd be "done".

A good video of work being done in Vancouver Canada

A "mature" Giant HogWeed stem

This - is more like a TREE, and is what happens in the wild, when unchecked
This - is more like a TREE, and is what happens in the wild, when unchecked

If you contaminate yourself with the furocoumarin chemical derivatives in its sap... you will become hyper-photo-sensitive for up to two years, possibly PERMANENTLY. Your skin will BURN in the sun easily, and blister. Your skin will turn brownish, black or purplish in spots where the chemicals cause a serious melanin reaction, discoloring your skin and scarring it.

And for an individual that is utterly unaware of it's nature? If you just simply innocently, begin to (naively) tug and pull on that weed? Without any consideration for protecting your skin? You'll probably be a hurting puppy. Why? because most of us are not sufficiently suspicious of plants to worry about where we touch the sap on our bodies. What if you pull on it then touch your eyes, without knowing what you are doing? I'm sure this has actually happened from time to time with this plant. It will cause "phyto-photo-dermatitis", it will cause a severe skin inflammation. The presence of minute amounts of sap in the eyes can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness.

This HogWeed, is not fully grown- probably is 2 or 3 years old

And even IF it were to be "chopped down", it does not get rid of the root.  It is the SIZE OF THE ROOT, that supports a bigger plant.  And if it is alive for a season... the root grows larger.  Even if the plant is cut and disposed of.
And even IF it were to be "chopped down", it does not get rid of the root. It is the SIZE OF THE ROOT, that supports a bigger plant. And if it is alive for a season... the root grows larger. Even if the plant is cut and disposed of.

Now... Let's discuss the SERIOUS implications of this plant

We -- COULD -- definitely be very "invaded" by it. (there's the serious discussion)

In America, we have been blessed. This continent is one of the LEAST Toxic to humans on this planet. We have, (as far as I can tell) very few highly toxic insects, plants, or animals. In other countries, (like Australia) the ants there can hospitalize you, if other varmints don't get you first. In Africa, there are all kinds of toxic plants and animals or insects. Africa also has many lovely Lovely parasites that are more than happy to (very aggressively) share your body with you. Worms, that are large enough to see, wiggling under your skin!

We, are FORTUNATE in America thus far. But it is "wide open" territory, for a biological invasion. The wrong animal, or plant, or insects, will upset our peaceful continent. Our peaceful and successful farming, or our very lives.

The wrong WEED. Can make walking through a field HELL. Where it used to be blissfully innocent, and free.

Logically, nature does not stand still. And things change... but we can try to maintain our lands. We could try to control new invasive species. I realize that nothing stays the same, and species do move about, in the natural order of things.

This weed, left unchecked, could leave entire fields and square miles of country-side, uninhabitable, or un-navigable, by (unprotected) humans. It will, absolutely, overtake and subjugate, a majority of weaker and smaller plant-life, and upset entire ecological systems. It is highly disruptive, and toxic to most mammals. Your dog, cannot be allowed get these phyto-toxins on it's fur, or consequently, it's skin. -your dog or cat could go blind- From this plant!

And all you "need" is ONE plant, somewhere nearby, for your cat, to walk through, pushing it's face into its foliage, or against its stem. Or, even if your dog, comes into the living room with the toxins on it's fur, and your little child then pets it's fur. Cross-contamination is always possible.

Suppose there was a new field of it growing nearby and your dog runs through that field, comes into the house and lays on the living room floor?

And your 2-year old then pets him? (I'm not trying to be alarmist) These plants simply DO reproduce FAST, and in one year, you could have a whole field nearby. Or a large "patch" of the weed.

A growing "patch" of Giant HogWeed

A growing solid "patch" of Giant HogWeed
A growing solid "patch" of Giant HogWeed

An entire field of growing Giant HogWeed

An entire field of growing (unchecked) Giant HogWeed
An entire field of growing (unchecked) Giant HogWeed

Growing all around an abandoned house

Abandoned house with a Giant HogWeed infestation
Abandoned house with a Giant HogWeed infestation

Typical severe reaction: Phyto-Photo-Dermatitis

This, is the result of serious phyto-photo-dermatitis.  And you WILL "over-react" to the sun, for years.  Or, you will possibly never fully recover from it's affect on your system.
This, is the result of serious phyto-photo-dermatitis. And you WILL "over-react" to the sun, for years. Or, you will possibly never fully recover from it's affect on your system.

Severe Dermatitis 2

Severe dermatitis out in the wild with no medical support, can overwhelm your bodies immune system, resulting in systemic infection, and raging "cellulitis"
Severe dermatitis out in the wild with no medical support, can overwhelm your bodies immune system, resulting in systemic infection, and raging "cellulitis"

The Giant HogWeed is an invasive threat to the United States wild-countryside

The Giant HogWeed is already out of control on riverbanks and in open fields of the U.K. Please note the videos below, dealing with the very serious problem Europe is having.

The Giant HogWeed is, indeed an aggressive invasive species (from Asia) that can easily run rampant if unmonitored and unchecked. ...And it probably already is... We just have not laid eyes yet on the fields of it, that most likely are beginning to establish themselves in our wide open United States, countryside.

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If you find this weed, report it. Or -kill it- yourself, after taking precautions.

Please observe the video below showing how the weed is more professionally removed. Note: the gentlemen in the video ...GENTLY... cut the plants slowly, and carefully with weed-trimmers. They do not use a machete' and wildly and rapidly hack and slash at it in bare-handed fashion. They have face shields, full body covering suits. Gloves. And they carefully chop the plants into small manageable pieces.

Here's a hint. Burning the weeds could be a BAD idea. Possibly very very extremely bad. I've not researched it (yet) but, usually burning weeds like this releases the chemicals within them into the air. (BAD IDEA... just off the top of my head!)

In general, we should be on watch for this weed, it cannot be allowed freedom.

And folks, it is so toxic, you CAN NOT WALK THROUGH fields of it. If you were untreated for any length of days, as in, a situation where you were stuck in the wild. Lost, or hurt and unable to travel from some place in the wild woods. And if you accidentally ran or walked through a field of this weed. The resultant infection and allergic reactions would (or could) simply kill you, without prompt medical care.

See the pictures of skin above? If THAT "condition" gets infected, without access to proper medical care, it WOULD and COULD indeed result in gangrene. I myself have HAD severe dermatological reactions. I know for a FACT, that if I did not have 1) steroids, 2) antihistamines 3) antibiotics ... I would have had deep, deep and probably LETHAL trouble.

Your body can NOT keep up with a massive skin infection brought on by massive dermatitis. It overwhelms your body systemically. It probably WOULD kill you. Especially if you are stuck alone in the wild with this condition.


There are several weeds that are very similar in appearance to the Giant HogWeed. The Cow Parsnip is the species most frequently mistaken for the Giant HogWeed. Below in the table are the most common factors by which to compare the plants. There is a video (immediately below) in this article where an expert does discuss the differences between Cow Parsnip and Giant HogWeed.

Cow Parsnip -vs- Giant HogWeed

FEATURE
Cow Parsnip
Giant HogWeed
Height of flowering stem
3-6 feet
6-16 feet
Mature stem diameter
2.5-5 cm
5-10 cm
Stem hairs
fuzzy hairs
stiff bristles
BOTH Plants possess similar chemicals that cause photosensitivity when in contact with skin. Cowparsnip LESS SO, than the Giant HogWeed. The Giant HogWeed is far more toxic re: quantity and intensity of toxicity

A good video comparison of Cow Parsnip and Giant HogWeed

The GOOD News, is that there are many SIMILAR weeds

Weeds that do look nearly identical to the Giant HogWeed, but...

-in reality...

There seem to be relatively few, ACTUAL major infestations of this HogWeed in the United States. But, it is absolutely beginning to show up, here and there in the U.S. And, it is, indeed, highly prolific. Extremely tough to totally eradicate. And just a total pain (literally) to "run into". Theoretically if you hit a small weed of it with your lawn mower or your weed-whacker, you COULD run serious physiological risk to yourself. You may breath it, get droplets in your eyes, on your skin, etc. It is a truly toxic and therefore, highly noxious plant. Most likely you WILL be sorry for "stumbling" over one.

And, if given an opportunity, it WILL grow, out of control.

Let us begin looking for it. Let us intelligently study, watch, and monitor the situation. And hopefully, before there ever is a true "problem", we may even find a good solution, before it runs rampant in our own yards.

In this video, you see ACRES of land being taken over in the U.K.

In the U.K.

The Law: (as generally stated in the U.K.)

The wildlife and Country side Act 1981 makes it an offense to plant or otherwise encourage the growth of Giant Hogweed. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 classified Giant Hogweed as Controlled waste.

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Essentially there is a campaign against the Giant HogWeed in England. It is vital to fight it and destroy it wherever possible. And we SHOULD do the same in the U.S. ...before... it is out of control.

Look at it THIS way, our country is much larger. We have much more space for it to grow wild in, and once it "explodes" we in the U.S.A. will have a much much larger and more difficult problem to handle than in the U.K.

it behooves us to watch out for this, or any similar natural invasion.

Giant HogWeed Removal for the City of London

Places where it is "known" to have appeared in the U.S.

Areas of the U.S. that are "known" infected with Giant HogWeed
Areas of the U.S. that are "known" infected with Giant HogWeed

Children soon realize this weed has hollow stems - For Blowguns

Children often hurt themselves with this weed when they try using the stems as blowguns, or in other "playful" ways, without realizing the dangers inherent
Children often hurt themselves with this weed when they try using the stems as blowguns, or in other "playful" ways, without realizing the dangers inherent

Typical Giant HogWeed stem

Typical Stem
Typical Stem

A Typical Giant HogWeed leaf: is 5 feet long and 3 feet wide

Typical mature Leaf:  5 feet long, and 3 feet wide
Typical mature Leaf: 5 feet long, and 3 feet wide

These plants compel me to say...: "Welcome to Jurassic Park !"

WELCOME TO JURASSIC PARK !
WELCOME TO JURASSIC PARK !

A mature (gone to seed) patch of Giant HogWeed

A mature (gone to seed) patch of Giant HogWeed
A mature (gone to seed) patch of Giant HogWeed

A robust plant flowering and maturing

A robust plant flowering and maturing
A robust plant flowering and maturing

Cutting the plants down gently - NOT LETTING THEM Go to seed!

Cutting the plants down gently - NOT LETTING THEM GO TO SEED !!!
Cutting the plants down gently - NOT LETTING THEM GO TO SEED !!!

The flower, pre-fruiting or before going to seed

The flower, pre-fruiting or before going to seed
The flower, pre-fruiting or before going to seed

The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit

The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit
The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit

The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit - CloseUp

The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit - CloseUp
The flower - now gone to seed - bearing the fruit - CloseUp

Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp

Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp
Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp

Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp

Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp
Giant HogWeed Seeds CloseUp

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